Throughout history, we, as a Jewish people, have faced persecution, violence and enslavement. It is because of this history that we find it so important to celebrate our freedom in the times when we have found liberation, safety and prosperity. At the Passover seder, we retell our eternal Jewish story and commemorate our exodus from slavery to freedom. After our time of isolation in order to protect ourselves and our communities, we might be yearning anew for liberation. While some of us may still be relegated once again to a virtual reality for the Passover holiday, we still have ample reason to celebrate, including religious freedom in America and a homeland for our people in the State of Israel.
Even in times of freedom, however, we must remind ourselves that freedom is not always a given; after all, we were all once slaves in the land of Egypt. This mentality reminds us to approach the world with empathy, compassion and concern. It reminds us that, while we are fortunate to be free, not everyone in the world has access to the same rights that so many of us were born with or have fought to achieve.
J Street has compiled this haggadah to apply the themes and lessons of the Passover seder to what it means, in 2023, to be pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy and anti-occupation. What questions do we need to ask about our power and responsibility? How might we be responsible for the oppression faced by others? What plagues us, and what steps can we take to make the most of our own freedom, while helping others toward theirs? This haggadah provides a framework for envisioning ways we can fight to ensure that Israel flourishes as a secure, democratic homeland for the Jewish people and that Palestinians are able to achieve self-determination and independence in a state of their own. It reminds us that, as long as others are suffering, our own celebratory glasses of wine are never full to the brim.
Originally compiled in 2020, this haggadah includes pieces written by J Street friends and clergy. You can use the entire haggadah or pick out particular sections to add meaning to your seder. As the seder is one long question and answer session, we hope you’ll feel inspired to ask challenging questions — and to listen closely to each other’s answers.